U.N. role in security contractor scandal ignored

November 2, 2010

In the wake of a Sept. 28 Senate report on Afghan security firms, salacious headlines about money for contractors ending up the hands of the Taliban routinely impugned the wicked Americans for the failure to vet firms properly.  The Washington Post ran the headline, “Mismanaged U.S. contractor money aids enemy in Afghanistan;” the Huffington Post said, “U.S. Bases In Afghanistan Employed Taliban-Linked Mercenaries,” the Los Angeles Times blamed “DOD security contracts,” and USA Today fingered “U.S. spending on Afghan security contractors.”

Completely lost in all the headlines were the failures of the contracting standards of United Nations.  A conclusion of “American” contractors supporting the Taliban is not supported by the facts presented in the text of the Senate report itself.  The most electric allegation in the report is that subcontractors fought against U.S. forces during a raid on Azizabad resulting in the injury of one U.S. soldier and the injury of several civilians. 

And who were those subcontractors in the Azizabad raid working for?  The United Nations.  That’s right—the most flagrant breach in oversight of Afghan security firms occurred under a United Nations contract not a United States contract.  And the most nefarious Afghan warlord implicated in the report, “Mr. White II,” was primarily a benefactor of the UN hired after White II’s Taliban connections became clear.  From the report’s executive summary:

In summer 2008, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) awarded ArmorGroup Mine Action (AGMA), one of the ArmorGroup family of companies, a contract to conduct mine clearance in Herat Province, including in areas around Shindand. AGMA hired White II [the name ArmorGroup used for a local Afghan warlord] paying him thousands of dollars a month to provide security guards and vehicles.

As to what White II did with that money, an Army Sergeant operating out of the FOB in the area said that he was advised that White II “was a supporter of Taliban operations” and that he would “help [the Taliban] with money.” According to the Army Sergeant, he was informed that White “would provide money because of his contracting jobs with ArmorGroup.  He had a lot of money from that and he would give that money to Taliban commanders, and they in turn would buy weapons and ammo, whatever they need”…

Notwithstanding those reports, AGMA officials said that White II was able to retrieve his confiscated weapons and he continued as AGMA’s security provider until August 2008, when he was killed in a U.S. Military raid on a Taliban meeting.

On August 21, 2008, U.S. and Afghan Forces conducted an operation in the village of Azizabad in the Shindand District to capture or kill Mullah Sadeq, a high value Taliban commander who U.S. Forces said “coordinate[d] LED attacks in Herat and Farah Provinces.”

The raid was based on intelligence reporting that Sadeq and a number of anti-coalition fighters would be attending a meeting that night in Azizabad. The meeting, it turns out, was being held at the home ofMr. White II. The raid met with intense resistance and one U.S. soldier was injured in the battle. The number of Afghan casualties was significant and included anti-Coalition militia and many civilians. A post-raid U.S. Army investigation found that some of the anti-Coalition militia “may have been security contractors or subcontractors for ArmorGroup.”

In fact, Mr. White and seven men employed as security guards for either ArmorGroup or AGMA were killed in the operation. In addition, a search of the raid site revealed “extensive stores or weapons, explosives, [and] intelligence materials.”

No company, country, or person should be funding the Taliban.  Let’s just be consistent in identifying who is actually responsible for it.

One comment

  1. […] the Persian Gulf.  These figures exclude extensive Taliban revenues from ransoms, extortion, and improperly diverted money from Western aid, U.N. contributions, defense contractors, and the Afghanistan government itself.  […]

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